Introduction

It's a given fact that computers have been getting smaller since the days of vacuum tubes and ENIAC. What was once a glorified calculator that took up a space the size of a football field can now fit in something the size of your watch. Tasks that used to take months to compute on a mainframe can now be calculated in minutes on a midrange desktop system. Even in a relatively short period of time, we still see progression so that your top-end desktop gaming powerhouse from two or three years ago can be surpassed by a modern laptop.

That's all well and good, but a big problem a lot of people have with gaming notebooks is that their size relative to typical laptops is rather large, making them less convenient to carry around. Relatively short battery life is another drawback. But perhaps the biggest drawback is a very simple one: price.

We recently looked at the Dell XPS M1730, which is arguably the fastest gaming notebook currently available. With its 8800M GTX SLI graphics chips and overclockable Penryn X9000 CPU, you get performance that surpasses most desktops from 18 months ago, or if you prefer performance that will match a reasonably configured midrange desktop system. If you put together a Core 2 Duo E8400 system with something between GeForce 9600 GT 512 SLI and 8800 GT 512 SLI graphics, you should have roughly comparable performance. The problem is that such a desktop system can be assembled for less than $1500, whereas the powerful XPS M1730 costs about three times as much.

What would be really nice is if we had a viable midrange gaming laptop alternative — something that offers reasonable performance for under $1500. We're not talking about any of the junk shipping with integrated graphics, or low-end stuff like GeForce 8400 or even 8700M GT. And while they're reasonably fast, even single GPU 8800M GTX notebooks like the AVADirect (Clevo) M570RU start at over $2000. How about a laptop with graphics performance that can at least match the GeForce 9600 GT? After all, the 9600 GT can be had for a mere $150 and it doesn't seem to consume that much power; how hard can it be to put something like that into a laptop?

In fact, it's not really all that difficult, and NVIDIA launched exactly that sort of chip in late 2007 with the GeForce 8800M GTS. It has 64 Stream Processors, just like the 9600 GT. Most of the gaming laptops have opted for the more powerful (and more expensive) 8800M GTX with its 96 SPs, so we were quite interested to see exactly how much performance you give up by going with the 8800M GTS. Unfortunately, we can't really do an apples-to-apples comparison here, because Gateway didn't stop at cutting down the GPU. In the system we received, they also trimmed the CPU performance quite a bit, dropping all the way to a 1.66GHz Core 2 Duo T5450. That certainly means CPU performance isn't going to match up well against something like a 2.8GHz X9000; what we want to find out is whether it can still provide adequate performance.


If you've ever looked at buying a gaming notebook, you have likely been very disappointed in the offerings that cost less than $2000. In fact, up until Gateway dropped the P-6831 FX on the mobile gaming market, we honestly haven't seen anything that would even qualify as a good midrange gaming notebook. Gateway didn't just break a $2000 price barrier, however. Available at locations like Best Buy for a mere $1350 (and currently with a $100 rebate), the P-6831 FX completely redefines the midrange gaming notebook. Let's look at how they managed to do this.

Gateway P-6831 FX Overview
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  • teknomedic - Sunday, March 30, 2008 - link

    Hey, great review... I read it yesterday... I bought the P-6831 today... hope your happy, cause I am, lol.

    Anyway... In short order I'll probably be upgrading the proc to the T8300 and getting a matched set of 4GB RAM and then installing Vista 64bit.

    Just wondering (since I haven't opened the box yet and am still thinking about keeping it)... how are the Vista 64bit drivers for this lappy? Will I beable to find all the drivers I need or will I need to run 32 for a while until they sort those out?

    Thanks again!
    Reply
  • Che - Sunday, March 30, 2008 - link

    Well, I stated installing 64-bit Vista about 24 hours after buying the laptop. Used a 64-bit disc and the laptop's activation key with no issues. As for drivers, most of the drivers are 64-bit aware (even if they are only listed as 32-bit). Took me a few hours but got it up and running great. IMPORTANT: Use the Gateway Recovery Center program and make a backup Drivers and Applications CD. Was very useful in reinstalling the drivers (many on the gateway site don't want to work right)

    Only drivers hard to find were: modem and nvidia.
    For the modem I used the following: http://www.notebookforums.com/thread212673.html">http://www.notebookforums.com/thread212673.html
    Nvidia I used the following: http://forum.notebookreview.com/showthread.php?t=2...">http://forum.notebookreview.com/showthread.php?t=2...

    Hope that helps.
    Reply
  • teknomedic - Sunday, March 30, 2008 - link

    that's awesome info... thank you... I really want to move to 64bit since that's what I'm running at home. Thanks again!! Reply
  • teknomedic - Sunday, March 30, 2008 - link

    ^^^ oh, and also... futher down the road, will I be able to upgrade the video as well? It also looks like if I did that, I'd have to rip the lappy apart? Reply
  • win32asmguy - Sunday, March 30, 2008 - link

    Sorry but the 8800M GTS is soldered to the motherboard, roughly under the number pad area of the keyboard. That is one of the reasons why this machine is thinner than the Clevo M570RU-U clones that are out there. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, March 30, 2008 - link

    I didn't actually check to see if the GPU was soldered on or not, but it wouldn't surprise me to find that's the case. Even if it is an MSM module that can be upgraded, it's highly unlikely you'll be able to do so. Just ask Dell XPS owners and Alienware m9750 owners how many GPU upgrades they've received over the years. Anyway, the GPU would be under the left side of the keyboard - the CPU is under the number keypad. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, March 30, 2008 - link

    Regarding video drivers, you have to get the current drivers from Gateway or try hacked drivers from LaptopVideo2Go. In the case of the latter, you will almost certainly get lower performance. Right now, Gateway doesn't have 64-bit GPU drivers (or 64-bit drivers for anything else) on their website. You can get around everything but the GPU and potentially sound drivers.

    I would wait for the 64-bit upgrade until NVIDIA releases their next "rapid driver update" mobile drivers, and see if they support the Gateway FX laptops and if there's a 64-bit version. I'm betting yes on 64-bit, but in talking with NVIDIA they *just* received their Gateway systems for validation testing, so they may or may not make it into the next driver release. They will be in the release after that almost certainly, but that's ~4 months out.

    The other question of course is whether you even need to go 64-bit and 4GB right now. I don't think so, particularly if gaming is your major concern. 32-bit is still better overall, IMO... maybe in another year 64-bit will begin to make an impact.
    Reply
  • teknomedic - Sunday, March 30, 2008 - link

    Thanks for the replies... too bad on the video considering I have a 5 year old laptop that allowed me to upgrade the video... and I'll wait on the 64bit drivers then. I'm already running 64bit vista at home and gaming too!... I've not had any issues beyond new PC trying to run old games... but that's what my WinXP and Win98 machines are for. ;) Reply
  • Che - Saturday, March 29, 2008 - link

    Just FYI... I received this laptop today (and love it). I have the p-6831FX model and it came with (according to Vista) a T5550 CPU @ 1.83 GHz (not T5450 @ 1.67 GHx). I just checked it using CPU-Z and it says T5600 @ 1.83 GHz. Any ideas?? or did I just get lucky? Of course i'm not complaining, lol.

    The sticker on the palm rest states T5450. I did order mine off ebay, but it was still sealed and new in the box as was stated in the auction.
    Reply
  • Dgacioch - Sunday, March 30, 2008 - link

    mine has the 1.83ghz T5550 as well, just bought it yesterday. Updated the video drivers and ran 3dmark 06. pretty respectable 7450 score, so at least a little improvement over the t5450. Ill be running some more games on it tonight to get some better impressions, but so far performance seems quite good even with the gimped cpu. Reply

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